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EU Imposes Partial Block on Accession Talks With Turkey


The European Union announced Monday it would slow membership negotiations with Turkey after Ankara's refusal to open all its ports and airports to goods from Cyprus. Lisa Bryant has more on the decision, announced at an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.

The European Union's decision came as no real surprise. Last month, the European Commission, the EU's executive body, recommended the 25-member block suspend some areas of its negotiation agreements with Turkey, as a deadlock dragged on over Ankara's refusal to open its airports and ports to Cypriot goods. Ankara does not recognize Cyprus, which has been divided since Turkey invaded the island in 1974.

At a press conference in Brussels Monday, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said the European foreign ministers were simply following the commission's recommendations.

"This decision strikes the right balance," said Olli Rehn. "It is a very carefully calibrated decision. On the one hand, it sends a signal to Turkey that failure to meet its legal obligations won't remain without consequences. On the other hand, it clarifies the way forward and enables progress in the accession negations. This is in the mutual interest of the EU and Turkey."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed the decision, which will likely be endorsed by European leaders during a summit later this week.

Ankara has long maintained that Cyprus is not Turkey's problem, and insists that the EU first end the economic isolation of Turkish Cypriots. About 18 percent of the island's population are ethnic Turks.

Some analysts believe the EU's decision will have little effect on membership negotiations, which are expected to last several years.